R. G. Collingwood’s philosophical analysis of religious atonement as a dialectical process of mortal repentance and divine forgiveness is explained and criticized. Collingwood’s Christian concept of atonement, in which Christ \ the Atonement the Incarnation), is subject in turn to another kind of dialectic, in which some of Collingwood’s leading ideas are first surveyed, and then tested against objections in a philosophical evaluation of their virtues and defects, strengths and weaknesses. Collingwood’s efforts to synthesize objective and subjective aspects of atonement, and his proposal to solve the soteriological problem as to why God becomes flesh, as a dogma of some Christian belief systems, is finally exposed in adversarial exposition as inadequately supported by one of his main arguments, designated here as Collingwood’s Dilemma. The dilemma is that sin is either forgiven or unforgiven by God. If God forgives sin, then God’s justice is lax, whereas if God does not forgive sin, then, also contrary to divine nature, God lacks perfect loving compassion. The dilemma is supposed to drive philosophy toward a concept of atonement in which the sacrifice of Christ is required in order to absolve God of the lax judgment objection. God forgives sin only when the price of sin is paid, in this case, by the suffering and crucifixion of God’s avatar. The dilemma can be resolved in another way than Collingwood considers, undermining his motivation for synthesizing objective and subjective facets of the concept of atonement for the sake of avoiding inconsistency. Collingwood is philosophically important because he asks all the right questions about religious atonement, and points toward reasonable answers, even if he does not always deliver original philosophically satisfactory solutions
Keywords Atonement  Collingwood, R.G.  Divine-mortal relations  Forgiveness  Justice  Repentance  Sin  Soteriological problem
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DOI 10.1007/s11153-014-9456-3
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